UK launch of the readable e-reader

Lots of digital book news this week, sparked by the heralded launch of the Sony e-reader in the UK. Via, you can read a round-up of local newspaper coverage of the Sony Reader before its launch tomorrow (Thursday), in all of Waterstone's 205 shops as well as online and via Sony centres. "The Daily Mail claims the e-book reading device could spell "the end of the paperback". However, at the Daily Telegraph Marie Phillips, author of Gods Behaving Badly, argues that at £199, the Sony Reader is "really expensive and I don’t see what it adds". Dan Sabbagh at the Times claims that some will find the device irresistible, despite the price. "It is a significant technological advance," he said."
I was startled by one aspect of a sidebar to the Times piece: apparently Waterstones counts a "heavy reader" as someone who buys 12 books a year. This figure is quoted as an argument that the e-reader may not catch on because people don't read enough. I am shocked that reading this amount of books is considered "heavy". I can only assume that Waterstones's definition is out of whack and what they mean is "not many people buy more than 12 books a year with us because they are in addition buying them at Amazon and from other booksellers, or using a library".
According to an industry information service, W H Smith is already selling the iRex iLiad on its website (although not in shops), after Borders UK  increased the number of stores selling the device from six to twelve. The iLiad retails for £399 with 50 classic titles pre-loaded. The Sony Reader undercuts that price significantly, as well as having 100 classic titles pre-loaded. Amazon has not yet announced UK plans for the Kindle.
E-books/readers are likely to be most popular when people travel, either on holiday or if they need to use books as technical manuals when doing things like installing or servicing gas boilers. And as the devices become more common, publishers will dream up innovative ways to use the format that can't work for print, such as (again via the Bookseller) a recent announcement by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin in the USA, that it is to produce a "digi-novel". The publisher has signed a deal with Anthony Zuiker, the creator of CSI, for a three-book "multimedia series", in which readers will need to read the book, view clips, and participate online in order to complete the story. "The series will have a mystery-type flair and will focus on renegade government investigator Steve Dark. Special codes will be included at the end of each chapter in the book; the reader uses these codes to unlock film footage online that continues the storyline in the book. Readers will also be able to participate in a community portal that features alternative storylines, different characters, and, according to Dutton, "countless ancillary levels of story enrichment." "

2 thoughts on “UK launch of the readable e-reader

  1. I do believe that e-book readers will take off, but only when the vendors start adopting the same sort of model used by Polaroid cameras and inkjet printers – sell the hardware for much less than it’s worth and make your money on consumables.
    (This means having a business model that could support this, which Amazon already does, but Sony doesn’t yet.)
    If they could get the readers down to £20 or less, I think they would really take off.

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